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Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules on California’s prison overcrowding problem, Tuesday’s oral arguments in Washington made two things clear.

One, justices from both the court’s liberal and conservative wings can’t believe state leaders let the problem got this bad.

And two, it’s unlikely that overcrowding will be relieved any time soon.

Even if the Supreme Court upholds a federal circuit court ruling ordering California to reduce the prison population to 137.5 percent capacity and the state quickly complies, California’s prisons will still be crowded.

“The main problem is that the voters don’t want to pay to construct new prisons but demand a service,” said Ryan Sherman, spokesman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), the prison guards union. The union supports the lawsuit and has intervenor status in the appeal to the Supreme Court.

Over the last 20 years, Sherman said, California voters have strengthening mandatory sentencing laws while simultaneously refusing to pass bonds to build new prisons.

During oral arguments, Supreme Court Justices expressed exasperation over California’s inability to confront the problem.

“This case has been pending for 20 years, has it not?” questioned Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, referring to one of the suits which was filed in 1990. “How much longer do we have to wait? Another 20 years?”

Like Ginsberg, Justice Sonia Sotomayor seemed prepared to uphold a court order that California reduce the population of its overcrowded prisons by more than 40,000 inmates.

Sotomayor said she didn’t see alternatives to a large scale prisoner release, since other alternatives that cost money appear more difficult in the face of a looming $25 billion sate budget deficit.

“The fiscal crisis has gotten worse, so construction is really not an option” said Sotomayor. “I don’t see how you wait for an option that doesn’t exist. They talked about hiring more staff, but the conclusion was that even if you maximize the staff, you won’t have the facilities to add more staff, which is what you need to cure the constitutional violation.

Justice Stephen Breyer called the overcrowding a "big human rights problem."

Carter Phillips, a Washington-based lawyer for the state of California, countered that such a prisoner release would put public safety at risk.

“I guarantee you that there is going to be more crime, and people are going to die on the streets of California,” he told the court.

“There is no way out of that particular box,” he said.

That argument seemed to make an impact among the court’s conservative justices.

"If I were a citizen of California, I would be concerned about the release of 40,000 prisoners," said Justice Samuel Alito. He cited a similar large-scale prisoner-release in Philadelphia which he said resulted in a spike "in the number of murders, the number of rapes, the number of armed robberies, the number of assaults -- that's not going to happen in California?" he asked Donald Specter, a lawyer representing the prisoners.

Specter responded that the trial court heard all the relevant evidence and “came to the unanimous conclusion that there are methods by which you can reduce crowding which will not increase crime in our state.”

In his questions and statements, Chief Justice John Roberts focused on another of the state’s contentions, that federal judges should not be allowed to order the release of inmates from a state prison.

“The point is that it’s a budget prioritization that the State has to go through every day, and now it is being transferred from the State legislature to the federal district courts throughout the State."

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who could prove to be the swing vote, seemed to side with the plaintiffs.

"The problem is that at some point the court has to say: You have been given enough time; the constitutional violation still persists, as the state itself acknowledges," he said. "Overcrowding is the principal cause, as experts have testified, and it's now time for a remedy. The court has to, at some point, focus on the remedy and that's what it did, and that, it seems to me, was a perfectly reasonable decision."

Legal experts said the Supreme Court has more than two options in deciding the case. While it could either reaffirm the lower court ruling or reject it, the Court could also give the state extra time to reduce overcrowding, or send the case back to the 9th Circuit for further review.

Ultimately, it will be up to the administration of governor-elect Jerry Brown to implement the Court’s findings when he takes office in January.

Carol Strickman, a staff attorney for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, said she hoped that “based on who I thought Jerry Brown was, there would be some movement in a good direction” next year, but Strickman added, “I don’t think we can be overly optimistic here that things will get too much better.”

As attorney general, Strickman noted, Brown took the state’s case on prison overcrowding all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

He could have refused to defend the case, she said, as he did with Proposition 8, the voter-approved measure that banned same-sex marriage.

5,146 Posts
In light of this article I would like to propose that we start helping Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho build a border fence along California, Oregon and Washinton, so we can start to contain the West Coast Crazy?:crazy:

I got $20 and keyboard to help get this rolling, anyone else in?

12,410 Posts
I believe San Fransisco is trhe premier California sanctuary city. They should release them there.

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8,544 Posts
you need more room?:D:laughing:
why not just execute BY FIRING SQUAD IN THE NEXT 30 DAYS all convicted

seems like that would be a win/win solution
(Soylent Green), that could be produced,could be used to feed the remaining population to reduce costs
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